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SANDS SINGERS The Woburn Sands Choir Spring 2020

Meet our new Musical Director Karen Clegg

Over the past couple of months we in the choir have got to know our new Musical Director Karen through our weekly rehearsals and our committee meetings. But do we really know what makes the lady tick? Here we unflinchingly interrogate here and pose a bunch of music related questions … let’s see what she has to say.

1. Karen, What is your earliest musical memory?

That would be playing the Trumpet Voluntary on my ‘cello and singing in the school choir aged 7.

2. Do you come from a musical family?

Yes I do, my Mum was an accomplished pianist.

3. What are your three favourite tunes from your youth?

As a young child ‘All things bright and beautiful’ was definitely a favourite. Then there was well known march ‘Crown Imperial’ by William Walton. A third would definitely be ‘Love and Marriage’ which I would sing incessantly as a child. As a teenager, it was of course the great generational stuff such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Stones, Simon and Garfunkel. More contemplative moments would include Matt Monroe – Walk Away and Rodreigo Guitar Concerto.

4. How did you get started as a professional singer?

From 16 I was a member of a folk group and performed at Westminster hall and got paid – so first steps as a professional! Whilst I was still a student at music college I started to take professional bookings as a singer, and some time later I joined the BBC Singers. But actually my first professional music field was as a String teacher!

5. What is your most embarrassing musical memory?

How about two for the price of one!

I was about to play the cello solo in a very important concert, the whole orchestra was poised, the audience expectant, and I began to play. It was immediately apparent that I hadn’t tightened the hair on my bow when the most awful sound broke the silence. The performance had to start again and I was left fuming and stressed at being so stupid!

As for the second, that was during my time as a singer and I was right at the front on stage. Let’s just say it embodied that age old of fear of a dress tucked into knickers following a last minute call of nature!

6. What was the most awesome concert/production took part in?

Without a doubt it would be at the Concert Hall in Manchester with the French composer and conductor Olivier Messian. He was a truly awesome character who had the whole orchestra and choir in the palm of his hand and as a result the performance was breathtaking.

7. Do you still dance to music on the radio? If so what makes you want to dance?

Any lively music will make me dance, but I really do like Heavy Metal! (from the choir we can certainly vouch for Karen’s lively prancing about when she is happy with us – or maybe her feet are just on fire!)

8. Do you watch The Voice. If so, why? If not, why? (there’s no escaping answering this)

Well I have watched The Voice a few times and it does make me cringe or laugh hysterically. But to be honest I tend to feel very sad when people are exploited in this way – given false hope – and consequently devastated when they eventually fail. Of course I might be too critical watching as I do with an insider’s eye!

9. Which songwriters work do you love the most?

Without a doubt John Rutter. (Note from the choir … well we know what we can look forward too then, and we have sung a few before!)

10. What is your favourite song

It is difficult for me to put a finger on a one in particular, but ‘Songs my Mother Taught Me’ by Dvorjak rates very highly.

11. Do you sing in the shower? Should the choir members sing in the shower?

I sing anywhere! Don’t keep it in the shower … spread the spirit!

12. What is your favourite choral work for you to personally sing in?

Well again, so many favourites, but I do love the Verdi Requiem.

13. What is your hot tip for a young person wanting to sing professionally?

You must know your stuff, work incredibly hard and still be prepared for many knocks on the way. But don’t rest on your laurels – remember there are always singers out there who are better than you and to whom you should aspire. Always be humble and learn from any experience you are fortunate enough to have.

14. What musical memory from your career gives you the greatest satisfaction?

That would definitely be seeing my choir make the finals of the National Youth Prom and subsequently being featured on a programme directed by Richard Stilgoe who chose the choir to perform.

15. What music do you play when you get home after choir (or do you just cry)?

I just crash on the sofa with a glass of wine, reflecting for a while on the pieces we have sung. Actually I’m usually quite exhausted so then it’s straight to bed. I don’t listen to music at that time as I wouldn’t want to spoil the memory of the evening!

16. At this time of the election, do you have a message for politicians about musical provision in schools?

This is definitely my soap-box subject, and I speak as someone who for many years ran a children’s music school. I believe that music in education is vital for all kinds of broader development in pupils and so I am furious at the way in which this subject has been eroded over the years.

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